Rock biographies… the ultimate beach read.

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The holiday week has me in a beach state of mind, especially as the weather has recently turned from cool and rainy to hot and bake-y. But the tepid weather helped me catch up on my magazines, and I finally read the recent Jimmy Page interview in Rolling Stone. The interviewer references some of the “legend” surrounding the band. Page refused to get sucked in, saying that if it weren’t for their music, no one would be interested the debris of their personal lives.

But, would they? I think Hammer of the Gods is a wild ride of a book, even if you don’t know much about Led Zepplin’s music . In fact, I loaned it a couple of years ago to a book club friend of mine who read it simply for the juicy bits. Granted, the band’s fame, fueled by their talent, changes the context of their crazy antics. But, there’s still conflict, characters (in some cases ones in whom we already have an emotional investment), plot and story arc — all the makings of a good tale, and considering the content, an excellent beach read.

If you’re unfamiliar with what makes a book a beach read, specifically, think about what you’d like to read in the midst of blue skies, white sands and whispy, lofty clouds. You want something not too deep, not too depressing, easy to read and maybe even a bit trashy. Romances are often cited as classic beach books. Rock biographies can fit the description too.

Not every rock biography is suited for the sand-in-your-toes reading occasion, though. Dream Brother is a deep and satisfying story about the short life of Jeff Buckley, but it is more suited to gray skies and crashing surf viewed from the dry side of a rain speckled window. Reading about the Doors and Hendrix is too dark, in my opinion, as their stories are closely tied to premature death. So, if you want an easy read that packs in drama, exotic locales, flamboyant personalities and the jet-set lifestyle that doesn’t destroy you beach vibe, here are some recommendations.

Hammer coverHammer of the Gods. Brace yourself from some gratuitous, deviant and reckless behavior in this tell-all by rock journalist Steven Davis, who takes a lot of what is included from Richard Cole, Zepplin’s tour manager. The band’s and its inner circle’s shameless behavior endears them to few, but reading about their antics is pure guilty pleasure. It is a glimpse of what happens when decadence is afforded to young men who aren’t quite ready to handle the Pandora’s box of fame.

True Adventures coverThe True Adventures of the Rolling Stones. I’ve read Keith Richards’ autobiography and other books about the Stones. Richards’ maintains an element of lightness even as he describes his multiple cold-turkey episodes, but his account of the band’s career also includes a very long passage about an early love of the blues, which exists in much the same form in every biography of a sixties British Invasion musician. This is way too boring for the beach. Stanley Booth, on the other hand, spins a tale of life in the late-60s and early-70s hanging with the band at the creative height of their careers. You get the escapades, drugs, parties, wives and girlfriends along with the music. Booth writes in a way that makes you feel you were riding shotgun the whole time. It remains a classic among rock biographies, even today.

I'm With The Band coverI’m With The Band. The trend here is that rock biographies covering the 70s provide the best beach reads, and this one by one of music’s most famous groupies is no exception. Pamela Des Barres delivers on all levels when it comes to the details you want most from someone with her unique perspective into the rock-n-roll lifestyle. Many rock biographies give a nod to the role of the groupie back in the industry’s heyday, but Des Barres gives you the real inside scoop in a voice that is as unapologetic as it is authentic. It’s hard to put this one down without liking her at least a little bit.

Into the Pleasure Groove coverIn the Pleasure Groove. How often do you see a man on the beach reading a book (or a Kindle)? Beach reads are almost always in the hands of women, so it makes sense to include this autobiography of John Taylor from Duran Duran. But, it’s not its appeal to the ladies that makes it fitting for sun and sand. (It did, after all, receive a very favorable review in the New York Times.) This book more than any other I have read gives an honest account of how fame and the lifestyle of a rock star can make what should be the highlight of one’s life a tortuous struggle. Many musicians have written about their addictions, but few have been able to tap into their vulnerability for readers in the way that JT does. Fans of our hero should get ready to swoon all over again.

Feel free to share your suggestions, as there is plenty of summer left to indulge!

The fourteen-year-old forty-something finally lives her teenage dream.

Today is the day.  Thirty years ago, I wouldn’t even have dared to wish it, the prospect was so fantastic.  But it is actually happening this evening.  I will meet John Taylor of Duran Duran.

And I have to say that the sensation is not the elation and thrill that I would have had thirty years ago.  It’s actually quite odd.  It’s the feeling that I am taking my daughter to meet Justin Bieber… only the mother and the child both reside in me.

Two friends and I are attending a book signing event for John’s just-released autobiography In The Pleasure Groove.  I finished the book yesterday and definitely recommend it to Duranies and fans of 80s music.  It’s also a good read if you like biographies of musicians.  The book is more honest and intimate than many in its recollection of the rise and fall of fame and addiction.

My expectation, since he’ll be signing books, is that each of us will have our 30 seconds (or less) to exchange conversation.  And I have no idea what I am going to say.

The preparations for this were all about giddiness, recapturing that feeling of 14 so that I could maximize this opportunity, because it never would have happened thirty years ago.  The heady excitement suits the occasion. But, the thing is, I am more the mom now than the girl.  And the mom has spent this day with a very bad cold, schlepping through Costco for Halloween preparations, loading and unloading washers and dryers, and still needs to figure out something to say that won’t embarrass her or the 14-year-old she used to be.  That girl, though hidden under layers of midlife wrinkles, etc., is still present on some level, and she would be mortified enough for both of us if I said something trite, stupid or obvious.

My husband says I should make him laugh, relieve the banality of signing book after book to a bunch of midlife female fans.  The specifics of his suggestion are a little odd, as they have to do with an unusual comment one of our male friends made about him a few years back.  I’m not sure I’m that brave.

I’ve thought about commenting on the book or asking how Nick Rhodes is doing (as I was a ticket-holder for one of the cancelled tour dates in August).  I’m probably going to wing it, my two friends in within earshot and the 14-year-old me peaking out from my eyes hoping that I don’t completely embarrass her.  It will be interesting to see what I come up with.

OMG! John Taylor is 50!!

Yes, John Taylor is 50 years old.  Now, I knew this somewhere in my mind.  When I was 14 years old I knew exactly how much older John Taylor was than me.  What girl didn’t?  (Only those who knew the age difference between themselves and Simon… or Roger… or Nick… even Andy.)  But I was reminded of it — and shocked by it — when I found a nice piece on Duran Duran while looking for information on tickets to their upcoming show in Chicago.

If John Taylor is 50, then I’m, uh…  You get the picture.  But age should be no barrier to gushing about Duran Duran, even if I am having a crisis of conscience over the ticket prices — which start at more than $100 for a balcony spot.  The sadder thing is that I just found out about this when listening to the radio the other day stuck in traffic on my way to a responsible adult meeting.  The concert is next month.  Why did I not know about it sooner?  “Duh!” says my fourteen-year-old self, “You are forty-something and have cut yourself off from access to the coolest news.”

But “fandemonium” is timeless when it comes to a group like Duran Duran.  I recall being in my early 30s driving to work hearing a bunch of 50-ish-or-so ladies melting over the phone on a call-in segment with Davey Jones of the Monkees.  “Wow!” I thought.  “These ladies are really in touch with their youthful selves!”  Only a few months later my co-worker and I nearly fell apart when news broke around our office that Duran Duran was coming to the House of Blues.  Squeals and shrieks!  Nearly breathless from the news, we giddily stomped from office-to-office, inviting other Duranies to share in the excitement.  We even hosted a TGIF Duran Duran video viewing party in the conference room to celebrate the momentous event.

So, I may or may not be there on October 21st to wish John Taylor a belated happy birthday from the crowd.  (That date is, coincidentally, quite close to Simon’s birthday, by the way.)  But, for a moment today, I felt young again… at least after I recovered from feeling very old.